Harrington-Wing ‘verse backstory 1: Two main characters meet for the first time… (first one we wrote, so far third in the timeline... that will most likely change)
“Go ahead and say it, Rashid.”
The large man didn’t turn around, continuing to glower at the viewscreen from the captain’s chair. “Say what, Master Quatre?”
The slender young man occupying the second chair at the navigation station smiled, mouth half-hidden behind one hand. “You told me so.”
“Unfortunately, pointing that out does not help matters.”
Quatre sighed, blue eyes darkening with regret. “Neither does complaining that I was nearly right about having the speed to dodge ambushes instead of needing to wait for an escort. If they hadn’t had that third ship…”
Rashid scowled. “The need to box in fast targets is precisely why pirates often plan to have a third ship positioned in an inconvenient location.”
“I’ll bear that in mind in future.”
If we have a future, went unspoken as the other crewmembers on the bridge exchanged looks. If these were the more rational breed of pirates, out to steal cargo without getting the sort of price on their heads that wholesale murder would cause, they could be back on course in just a few hours, slightly poorer but otherwise unharmed. If they were the sort of pirates who went for ransom and extortion, Lord Quatre Winner, only son and heir to the Winner barony - and substantial fortune - would make a tempting prize indeed, and their return home could be indefinitely delayed. If they were the sort who spaced entire crews and stole the ship whole…
< < Sandrock, strike your wedge and turn off the damn distress call before we turn it off for you, > > a harsh voice snapped over the com.
“Orders, Master Quatre?” Rashid asked gloomily.
“…I really do not like the idea of capitulating meekly to their demands,” he said in a voice that was almost mild.
“Neither do I.”
“I’m seriously considering redesigning the Sandrock II to be armed,” Quatre went on, eyes narrowing slightly. “Heavily armed.”
“Hauptman Yards have already laid down the keel,” Rashid pointed out, scratching his beard thoughtfully. “They’ll charge some fairly stiff penalty payments if you change the plans now.”
“It’s not like I can’t afford it.”
< < Listen, you fucking idiotic merchanters, we’re going to get you one way or another! How about you opt for the way that lets you keep all your atmosphere inside your hull, huh? The longer you piss around like this, the worse it’s gonna be! > >
Quatre grimaced and rubbed at his eyes, posture wilting slightly in defeat. “Well. I suppose--”
“There’s another ship!” Auda announced, leaning over his console. “Outsystem from us, just lit up its drives.”
“Another pirate?” Rashid asked.
“No… it looks like a cargo hauler,” Auda said slowly, looking puzzled. “They’ve brought up their transponder too; Silesian registry, says it’s the Doodszeis…? Who names a ship ‘dude’-something?”
Quatre spun his chair around, hitting keys on his screen to echo Auda’s. “Are they close enough to the hyper limit to get away if they run now? Try to signal them!”
“They’re nearly on the limit, but they’re moving in-system! What the hell do they think they’re doing?!”
A new voice, young and cheerful, came from the com. < < Oh hey there, Sandrock. You’re from Manticore, right? How you doing? > >
“Put me through,” Quatre snapped, and leaned forward as Abdul opened an outgoing channel. “Doodszeis, reverse course and get out-system now! We’re under attack--”
< < Belay that noise, Sandrock, > > the pirate snarled. < < And you, Doodszeis, just keep coming this way nice and quiet if you know what’s good for you. > >
< < Hm? > > The young voice was blithely unworried. < < I’m not seeing a problem here… > >
“Then I suggest you take a better look at your sensors, Doodszeis, because I don’t know about you but I can see three armed ships with bad intentions,” Quatre said sarcastically.
< < Like I said, > > he drawled. < < Still not seeing a problem. > >
“Um,” Auda said in an uncertain voice, pointing at something on his screen. “That’s, um, a lot of acceleration for a cargo hauler. Like, really a lot…”
< < Oh! > > A laugh. < < Oops, sorry, wrong transponder. Well, right transponder for sneaking up on people, but since you guys were nice enough to show up without us having to play bait ourselves… Hello. My name is Duo Maxwell, and this is the Sweeper Q-ship-- > >
Alarms went off on Auda’s board and the symbol representing the oncoming ship was ringed in red as targeting systems came online.
< < --Deathscythe, > > Duo finished, voice darkly amused.
Quatre blinked, leaning back from his console. “…Rashid?”
“Yes, Master Quatre?”
“Are we still worried?”
“I don’t think so, Master Quatre. I’ve… heard of them.”
Auda spluttered. “I don’t believe this-- Master Quatre, one of the pirate ships just reversed course and is trying to run for it!”
< < Ooh, somebody’s heard of us, > > Duo chortled over the com. < < Don’t get your knickers in a twist, guys, we’ll catch up to you once we’re done with your friends. > >
Several hours later, Quatre finally got to see the owner of the insanely cheerful voice that had been taunting and insulting the pirates through the entire fight. (And singing. His rendition of “Oops, I Shot You Again” had been particularly catchy.)
< < Hey there! > > Blinding white grin, laughing blue eyes, and an impractical waist-length braid of chestnut hair draped over the shoulder of his vacuum suit. < < You guys need any help with repairs or anything? > >
“I was about to ask you that myself,” Quatre admitted. “We’re fine, but it looked like you took a couple of hits?”
< < Nothing serious, > > Duo shrugged, < < and we’ve got some support ships on the way. The boss lets me use Sweepers resources for my little hobby so long as we at least try to pay our own way by salvaging our opponents-- > >
A loud ‘bleek!’ from off-screen distracted him, and he looked to one side. < < Oi, Shini, what’s the matter? > >
A dark-furred treecat, nearly black, jumped up onto the back of his chair and picked up his braid with one true-hand, whipping it around to hit him across the mouth. < < hiss! > >
< < Come on, we got two of them! > >
Quatre sat back in his chair, watching in bemusement as ‘Shini’ apparently scolded his human for letting the third pirate ship escape. Is that… a treecat-sized atmosphere suit?
< < We’ll get them later! > >
< < chirp! > >
“Don’t let me interrupt your little domestic discussion,” Quatre said eventually, starting to grin.
Duo snickered. < < ’Scuse us, Shinigami has his opinions and wants them heard. > >
“The only good pirate is a dead pirate?”
< < Oh, no, not quite. The only good pirate is a captured pirate, because then you get bounties, and usually there’s less damage and better salvage. Mercenary little bastard. > >
< < Bleek! > > The treecat nodded emphatically.
< < ‘Yes I am mercenary, because someone’s got to keep an eye on our running expenses,’ > > Duo translated cheerfully, rolling his eyes.
Shinigami launched into a long (loud) speech delivered entirely in bleeking, scolding, hissing and chittering, with accompanying true-hand gestures that turned out to be surprisingly expressive. Quatre formed the impression that the treecat was explaining that if he left it up to Duo, the human would have blown their potential salvage fees out of space and the Deathscythe would be left with no funds to continue their… had Duo called it a ‘hobby’? The hand-gesture for ‘large explosion leaving no trace’ was particularly emphatic.
“…If I understand you correctly,” Quatre interrupted eventually, “a reliable source of income other than salvage would be helpful?”
< < Bleek! > > Shinigami nodded again.
Not the person I expected a reply from, but never mind. “Well. If you and Captain Maxwell would like to visit my ship for dinner, I have a business proposition that you might find interesting…” Trailing off, he raised one eyebrow inquiringly.
< < Business proposition? > > Duo asked, answering the raised eyebrow with one of his own.
Quatre grinned. “I have a newly personal appreciation of the value of anti-piracy operations, and I have an accountant who can get just about anything approved as a tax deduction.”
Shinigami grinned, showing a truly fearsome array of teeth. < < Bleek. > >
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